Tackling worldwide issues

14th October 2005 at 01:00
DISCUSSING GLOBAL ISSUES: How do we make peace? Water - a right or a commodity? What is participation? A Healthy Diet? Who decides?

DISCUSSING GLOBAL ISSUES: What is Participation? can be downloaded at www.unicef.org.uktzresourcesdownload.asp

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If you want to make links with a school in another part of the world, these resource packs from Unicef will give you some ideas. Each contains a booklet with lesson ideas and a set of photo-cards illustrating individual cases from different parts of the world, including Burundi, Vietnam, Brazil, Bangladesh and Scotland.

The lesson ideas tend to focus on brainstorming sessions - Where are we in this picture? What do you think these people are doing? - and there is a lot of sticking ideas on Post-it Notes. We are in citizenship territory here, but geography, English, PSHE and history might want a look-in, too.

How do we Make Peace? reveals how, until recently, children of Khmer Rouge fighters in the jungles of Cambodia were banned from watching television and learned how to make booby traps for enemy soldiers alongside their spelling and maths and lessons. Now they get a more normal schooling. If any of your class think that sounds less fun, the pack is designed to help them think it through more carefully.

Water should do the same. What we get from a tap, Amatu from Ghana has to carry each day from a pump four kilometres away. School is 6km away and when she gets there she has to collect water, too.

What is Participation? concentrates on what children can do themselves to address issues. Margaret Gibney from Belfast wrote to Cherie Blair pointing out that she had only known one year of peace in her lifetime; her letter ended up being discussed by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

Bega from Brazil was born blind and had no future until a children's arts centre enabled him to develop as a musician. Now he is teaching other blind children.

One rather good exercise invites you to classify situations of children participating in the adult world. Parents demonstrating for more nursery places bring their children along with banners. Is this participation? Or manipulation? You decide.

A Healthy Diet? Who decides? draws on case-study material from Ethiopia, Tajikistan and has a UK case-study using information from a recent report on the health of UK children. Students learn about the importance of micro-nutrients and the political, economic, environmental and social causes of malnutrition.

Some children will find a lot of the wording difficult, and some of the conflict case studies need a much clearer context. I would have liked to see more use of everyday school examples such as bullying or name-calling, but the materials should allow children to draw their own conclusions.

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